Suitland Parkway was constructed through a natural valley during World War II to connect Bolling Air Force Base with Andrews Air Force. It runs through Ward 8 for three miles, from the I-295 to the Maryland state line at Southern Avenue. With only two street crossings in between, the parkway effectively divides Ward 8 in half.
Known as a busy commuter route between central Washington to its eastern suburbs, the parkway is also a nature preserve, flanked on each side by over 100 acres of forested hillside. These woods shelter the many hilltop apartment buildings from the noise and pollution of the roadway bellow. In places, the valley is so narrow and the hills so steep that, viewed from above, the road seems to disappear.
The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum sits on the north side of the parkway. Museum staff and volunteers maintain the George Washington Carver Trail through the pretty upland woods nearby, one of only two designated hiking trails in Ward 8.
Unlike the other three major wooded areas in Ward 8, which belong to the National Park Service, most of Suitland Parkway is managed by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation. Not surprisingly, it has never been managed as a public green space.
The steep hillsides that make Suitland Parkway so striking have also made it the target of decades of illegal dumping. In places where apartment buildings back up to the forest and streets dead-end at the forests edge, all manner of household items, furniture, car parts and construction materials cover the ground.
Invasive English ivy, bittersweet and multiflora rose are rampant, undermining the diversity of native plants and animals found here.
In 2018 Ward 8 Woods began the massive undertaking of removing decades worth of accumulated trash and beating back the advance of invasive species. We are also working with Casey Trees to plant native trees in open grassy areas and those cleared of invasive species. In the coming years we hope to work with the DC government to create hiking trails along both sides of the parkway.